Full disclosure: I wrote this title a week before we left to go on vacation.
It was a witty title and as you know, those are hard to come by. So I wrote the title, pressed the Save Draft button and off I went to my normal non-blog writing summer life. In fact, I have seven titled posts with no body written because of the self-imposed blog grounding I had set for myself this summer. To be clear, I was still writing for my other job, in addition to all the other duties if you thought I was slacking this summer. But I did indeed slack because SUMMER.
So writing a title for a post that had yet to be written was the first mistake of what I like to call Vacation-pocalypse 2017. We had it coming really. We have been so lucky over the past several years of travel that nothing really bad or icky happened. It was our time.
We went to Utah last summer for Mike’s company annual picnic and we had an amazing time. So amazing in fact, that we were planning this summer’s trip to Utah on the way home from last summer’s trip to Utah. But this year we added a cool little side trip: fly into Las Vegas (the girls nor I had ever been) and spend one day/night there, then drive up to Salt Lake City. I was giddy because VEGAS BABY! and also because I love a good old-fashioned road trip. Especially a road trip through the desert (never seen one before) and over mountains (love me some mountains) and add in snow-capped peaks (who doesn’t love a good snow cap or sno-cap)?
We want to make memories with our children, give them things to talk about when they are older. That we did more than just sit in our family room and watch The Middle. But doing that is expensive. Traveling isn’t something for the weak at heart or wallet. In fact, if I had my way we would probably never go farther than four hours from our home because I am a realist and very cheap. My husband is more live life to the fullest even if it means we have to put the Kit Kat’s at the gas station on the “desperate measures” Discover Card. I am more, “do you want to go to college or buy that sweatshirt at the gift shop? Okay but then we won’t have any money to get your braces so just be ready to frown the rest of your life.”
I know, I’m a peach.
What I wasn’t ready for when we got to Las Vegas besides ALL OF THE STARBUCKS (is this Heaven? No it’s Las Vegas) was how expensive Las Vegas was.
We did get a deal on our hotel because Las Vegas in July is hell-hot and our hotel had some cool features like an amazing pool, a rain forest, a volcano among many other things. *
- like an adult pool.
I was really curious about the adult pool. Like, when you say adult, do you mean ADULT ADULT pool? Or just a place for people who don’t come with kids to be away from kids?
That didn’t seem to sway the adults who weren’t at the adult pool who were making out so hard and so often that I thought maybe we happened to swim into the adult pool by accident.
There were lots of really pretty and expensive restaurants in Vegas and a few of them were in our hotel. Apparently, they don’t want you to explore the rest of the city but rather stay inside a hotel the entire time. I kind of fell for this type of brainwashing while there because it was nice to have everything right at your disposal.
Eat dinner at midnight? SIGN ME UP!
Go gambling with free booze at your beck and call? SIGN ME UP!
Go for a swim naked with your husband and get drunk while ordering a pizza! SIGN ME UP! (We didn’t do this but I wish we did).
Our best experience was at the above restaurant on our first day there at lunch. We had a Russian server and a Mexican busboy and we felt at home because that diversity is very much alive in the area we live. Anna (who is in AP Spanish 4) spoke Spanish to our busboy but was a little hesitant because she didn’t want to come off as that annoying white kid who learned Spanish in school and wants to show it off on vacation.
He was wonderful, helping her with the hard words and loved that we all tried to make an effort to communicate with him. Something that I am sure most customers don’t do. When we were leaving he said a heartfelt, “adios amigos!” and we all felt so touched that we connected with him. The best part of the trip, hands down.
So that this doesn’t become a novel, here is the consensus of Las Vegas:
It was much cleaner than I thought.
Getting used to the time change (two hours difference for us) was harder than I thought it would be.
There are more trees than I thought there would be (palm and regular).
There are people who want you to go to strip clubs everywhere along the Vegas strip. They tap these cards at you when you walk by. DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT or you’ll end up with a picture of Busty Barbara and you don’t want to have that conversation with your nine-year-old.
Same with the homeless people who held up a sign about playing with someone’s balls.
Kids might not like it. Ella said and I quote, “this place is inappropriate” but she hasn’t seen the inside of a Chuck E. Cheese in years, so most likely the average kid will love it.
It was our (at least the girls and my) first time ever seeing a minibar. It was exciting, to say the least, but it was also stressful because if you so much as graze the items gently with your sleeve, you are charged 15 dollars for a Snickers bar.
I WON 5 CENTS!!
I am not much of a gambler (see above cheap reference) but I had to knock gambling in Las Vegas off my bucket list. I never pegged Ellen as much of a gambler either, so I felt like this was the machine for me. I lost $4.95 in a matter of ten seconds, so obviously I don’t like Ellen anymore.
We left Las Vegas early the next day and drove the seven hours to Salt Lake City. I was most excited about this part of the trip because the girls and I had never seen the desert before.
As gorgeous as the views were, after two hours driving through the desert, I finally understood how the terms “deserted” and “desolate” came about. I was just glad we had a full tank of gas and it was daytime.
I also finally understood where the word “oasis” came from when we spotted an In and Out Burger in St. George, Utah.
But seriously, beauty.
On day three, I woke up and the world was spinning so badly that I had to hold onto the walls of the hotel room to walk. After a visit to a walk-in clinic, it was decided that I was suffering from the effects of altitude and to take Dramamine as soon as possible.
Apparently, Ella was also adjusting to the altitude as well. She slept everywhere and anywhere we went for the first two days in Utah.
So far, this was nothing like last year. Mike was working each day, so it was up to me to keep the girls entertained and even though my oldest would be entertained by Snapchat and YouTube videos alone and my youngest by a sleep pillow, I felt pressure to keep the party going.
It was on day two while trying to “make memories” I drove over an hour (with dizziness, I know, I KNOW) to a place where we could make soap that no one wanted to make, and got lost on a street full of Mormons, that I began to cry. Sob, actually, while trying to look for a bathroom for my nine-year-old who awoke from nap #5 with an urge to pee so bad I almost let her publicly urinate on Center Street in downtown Provo. In front of all the Mormons.
So we stopped at Culver’s because Culver’s reminded us of home and cheese curds were going to be the answer. To what question, who in the hell knows. But it did help because it was while we were munching away on the Midwestern food that we discovered we were only five minutes away from Sundance. Robert Redford’s Sundance. The movie star’s Sundance.
On the road to Sundance, we unexpectedly saw the above: Bridal Veil Falls. I had this on the to-do list that I made before we left Illinois but with all the dizziness, sleeping, peeing and Mormons, I completely forgot. We got out of the car, listened, stared, and prayed because this was a gift from God that day. I needed that damn waterfall more than anyone will ever know.
By the way, when we got to Sundance it was very secluded and exclusive. Think secret service (they weren’t) in the parking lot and no signs anywhere to let unsuspecting people know where they were. It could have been Camp David or a swingers resort for all I knew until we swung (pun intended) around in the packed parking lot to an attendant
secret service lady wearing a black shirt that said Sundance across the front, an earpiece, and a fanny pack. We rolled down the window, smiled and said, OH WE TOOK A WRONG TURN AND ARE LOST! She smiled and waved, probably a little worried about common folk finding her resort swing club. So no pictures, sorry. Just know that there’s a lot of nefarious shit going down on that mountain to the left of Culvers. *
The second best part of the day was seeing these flowers just growing wildly along the mountain road to the
swingers Sundance resort.
On the fifth day, the girls and I decided to hop over to the state capital which happened to be five minutes from our hotel. It was really pretty inside and we were allowed to access all parts of this building including:
We had a list of complaints (altitude, heat, no public bathrooms in Provo, THERE’S NO PANERA BREAD IN UTAH???) to pass on to his royal highness (or whatever they call him) to get to work on, but Ella had a playdate to get to. Next time, I will be more organized. *
- Just kidding, I’m never going back.
Ella met a friend in Utah last year and we got them together again. They played non-stop for 8 hours and then decided they needed to see each other the next day as well. They were already planning “next year”. Jesus take the wheel. Or pass the extra strength Dramamine.
Such a contrast from last year, I was never so glad to get on a plane for home in my life.
In fact, I (as well as Ella) fell asleep on the plane. I never sleep on planes, to give you an idea of how out of it I was. My husband took this picture to document it, with it being such a rare sight. I slept the entire flight, in fact. When they announced that we were only 10 minutes from the approach to Chicago, I may have cried a little. Happy tears.
I’m not saying you should never visit Utah.
If you get the chance, go.
It is beautiful, fascinating and it may bring you down to the ground. But was it worth it?